May an NFL player refuse the franchise tag and move on?

Maybe this goes in the games forum, although I’m looking for a factual answer here - I’ll let a mod determine that. If an NFL player is in the last year of his contract, and his team wants to franchise tag him for the next year, may he refuse that move and take his services wherever they may be in demand, signing a contract with a new team? Is he obligated to take that franchise tag? The ninth paragraph in this article ( is ambiguous about it.

I’ll hang up and listen for your answer.

I thought that was the point of the franchise tag – to keep him from leaving. The team has to offer a certain salary level based on some formula, but as long as it does, I thought the player was stuck. I seem to recall some players really resenting the tag for this reason.

The NFL now has exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags.

Most tagged players are playing under exclusive tags. They can’t refuse the tag and can only negotiate with the one team.

What that article mentions is that a player can refuse to sign the 1 year contract that accompanies the tag.

The franchise tag means the contract must be for at least the greater of the the average salaries of the top 5 payed players of the position (can be expensive for QBs, for example) or 120% of the player’s previous salary.

By holding out, the player doesn’t get to negotiate with anybody else but the team doesn’t get the player, either. It’s a stalling tactic designed to encourage the team to commit to a better long term contract or remove the tag. They can hold out as long as they want, but if they want to play that season, it will only be for the one team and either under the terms of the franchise tag or a newly negotiated contract.

ETA: Or, the team could capitulate and remove the tag, but I don’t recall this happening much or even at all. It’s a fairly strong hammer to wield.

There are two levels of the NFL:'s franchise tag, exclusive and non-exclusive. A player doesn’t have to sign an exclusive franchise offer, but may not negotiate, sign or play for any other team for the year.

With a non-exclusive tag, the player may contact other teams, but the franchising team can match any offer he gets. If they don’t match, they get two first-round picks from the competing team as compensation.

The only real “option” they have is to hold out. As the article says:

It’s a one-year contract, though it’s possible to sign the franchise-tag contract while continuing to negotiate with the team on a longer-term deal (which is the DeSean Jackson example).

Edit: forgot about the exclusive / non-exclusive versions now out there. Also, flagged for a move to The Game Room.

It looks like there are two types of tags. Exclusive, where the player can’t negotiate with other teams, and non-exclusive, where they can. However, if a non-exclusive tagged player signs with a new team, his old team receives two first round picks from his first team as compensation. Practically, that is too high of a price to pay to sign a FA to a huge deal. A brief googling session did not find any time that happened.

Of course, the player always has the option of refusing to sign the contract and not playing for the year, but again, it’s not really practical to leave millions on the table and not play football for a year.

Even if it’s factual, questions about sports go in the Game Room.

General Questions Moderator

Thank you. Very informative and helpful. Can you provide a source or citation for said info?

A couple of articles which explain it well:

A Bleacher Report article explaining the Exclusive and Non-Exclusive tags.

An article by Mike Florio (who you see if you watch NBC’s football coverage), explaining some of the ins and outs in more detail.

And, finally, the Wikipedia article has a concise summary.

Has a qb ever been tagged? I’m trying to think of an instance and can’t come up with one…

Drew Brees, repeatedly, for one example (he’s mentioned in the Mike Florio article).

Reading through the Wikipedia article (which lists taggees, year-by-year), I also see:
Michael Vick (2011)
Peyton Manning (2011)
Matt Cassel (2009)

According to this Wikipedia page, Brees (2012), Vick (2011), and Peyton Manning (2011) have all gotten the exclusive franchise tag, and Matt Cassell got the non-exclusive tag from New England. With QBs (with most players, but it’s especially true for QBs), the tag is intended more to extend long-term negotiations than it is to actually serve as a one-year deal.

There’s also the transition tag (like the franchise tag, each team gets one per season), which allows the team to match any offer but does not provide for compensation if the team doesn’t match.